LRT delayed until early 2018 due to Bombardier train delays

The Region of Waterloo has confirmed the start of the Ion LRT service will be delayed until early 2018 due to delays in production at the Bombardier rail car plant.
The launch of LRT service in the Region of Waterloo has been delayed until early 2018, as Bombardier struggles to produce the 14 cars on-order by the region. (Mike McCulloch/CBC)

The Region of Waterloo has confirmed that the start of the Ion LRT service will be delayed until early 2018, due to delays in car production at the Bombardier plant.

Documents presented to the Region of Waterloo Planning and Works Committee Tuesday showed the first trains will not arrive until December 2016, with the final cars delayed until October 2017.

"The wiggle room is pretty much wiggled out," said Tom Galloway, chair of the region's planning and works committee. 

"The Region is extremely disappointed with Bombardier and their inability to meet their own original and revised schedule and production timelines," said a memorandum to the committee.

The wiggle room is pretty much wiggled out.- Tom Galloway, committee chair

The document also said the region was reviewing its legal options "to recover any damages from Bombardier," but Thomas Schmidt, the commissioner of transportation and environmental services for Waterloo Region, told the committee Tuesday that he didn't belive the company was in breach of contract. 

Second production delay from Bombardier

The region has purchased 14 light rail vehicles (LRV) from Bombardier as part of a larger Metrolinx contract for 170 such vehicles. The original agreement would have seen all 14 vehicles delivered by Dec. 10, 2016. 

This is the second delay in train car production by Bombardier.

In April, Bombardier said it would be unable to meet its deadline due to a disconnect between the company's manufacturing plant in Mexico and its assembly plant in Thunder Bay.

That disconnect included misaligned bolt holes, which were discovered when the assembly crews in Thunder Bay started to put together test vehicles. 

Bombardier said it expected the first train cars to arrive in the region in October, two months later than initially expected, with the final rail cars arriving in May 2017.

At the time, Schmidt said there would be "no impact to the overall completion schedule." 

That is no longer the case. 

Revised delivery schedule met with skepticism 

The new delivery schedule, as decided by Bombardier, has the first vehicle delivered in December 2016. The next four vehicles will be delivered in one-month intervals, and then the remaining vehicles will arrive in three-week intervals. The final car is now expected to arrive in October 2017 – but it cannot be put into service right away. 

Once cars arrive in the region, they must be put through safety tests and a required 600-kilometer burn-in period, which will delay the service start-up until early 2018.

But the changes have left councilors wary of the company's ability to follow through on their commitments. 

"I think we all have to be a little skeptical, considering the history," said Galloway.

With files from the CBC's Melanie Ferrier